MICHAEL MULROY V. U-HAUL CO. OF NEW YORK & VERMONT, ET. AL., SUPREME COURT, BRONX COUNTY, INDEX NO. 24372/2013E
In June 2018, in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, Partners Kevin Pinter & Joe Gulino represented defendants, U-Haul Co. of New York & Vermont, Inc. (“UHNY”) and Tori Realty (“Tori”), at trial in an action based on a trip and fall over an alleged dangerous condition on a sidewalk abutting the Bronx property owned by Tori and leased by UHNY.
Plaintiff, 51 years of age at the time of trial, claimed that on June 19, 2013 while walking on the sidewalk in front of the subject premises in Bronx County, he was caused to trip and fall over a raised metal plate that had been placed on the sidewalk, due to its raised “lip” which protruded at an alleged height of 2-3 inches above the surface of the sidewalk. Plaintiff claimed the plate was unreasonably dangerous and constituted a tripping hazard of which both UHNY and Tori were aware, having existed for approximately 12 years prior to plaintiff’s fall.
Plaintiff allegedly suffered a significant right shoulder injury, necessitating 3 separate right shoulder surgeries, in July 2013, January 2015 and November 2015. Plaintiff contended that the first shoulder surgery was directly related to injuries sustained in the fall, and that the second and third were necessary due to a subsequent incident at his home in October 2013, when plaintiff re-injured the shoulder while jumping back from his barbeque grill’s flames, tearing some of the anchors that had been surgically implanted during the first surgery. Plaintiff’s experts further contended that plaintiff would likely require future surgeries and that plaintiff faced a life of significant medical expenses in the years ahead, all due to the trip and fall on the Bronx sidewalk.
Defendants claimed that the metal plate was open and obvious, and that given the totality of the circumstances, including that it was placed right up against the building line, leaving plenty of clear sidewalk on which to walk, the plate simply did not constitute an unreasonably dangerous condition. Defendants also claimed that plaintiff had no reason to walk directly over the plate, and through cell phone records obtained and a timeline of events constructed through plaintiff’s own testimony, that plaintiff was likely distracted by his own cellphone use at the time of the accident – a claim plaintiff vehemently denied.
With respect to damages, defendants conceded that the first shoulder surgery was causally related to the subject trip and fall but contended that the second and third surgeries were the direct result of the barbeque incident, which involved a new injury, that was in no way related to the shoulder injury sustained in the sidewalk trip and fall. Defendants further argued that plaintiff had made an excellent recovery and would not need any significant future medical care as a result of the subject trip and fall.
Mr. Pinter began the trial on June 4, 2018 and continued through the end of the day on June 7th , when an unexpected medical issue necessitated Mr. Gulino stepping in and continuing the trial through the close of the evidence on June 22nd. On June 26th Mr. Pinter was cleared to resume participation in the trial, at which time closing arguments were delivered, and the jury began its deliberations. Plaintiff’s counsel requested $2.1 million in his summation, while the defense suggested a “nice round number” of $0. After a little over one hour of deliberations, the jury returned with a defense verdict, finding that the subject metal plate simply did not constitute a dangerous condition as the defense had argued since the outset. The verdict was a hard-fought win earned under difficult circumstances and reflected a truly collaborative effort by Mr. Gulino and Mr. Pinter on behalf of our clients.